Metro Weekly

Youth Pride 2012: Youthful Measures

This year, D.C.'s special day marks its sweet 16th birthday with vibrancy. But since its birth, Youth Pride has thrived.

That orientation, the chance for her to learn about so much of her community at once, likely helped get Bell where she is today, heading her own B.O.I. Marketing & Promotions and a very well-known face around D.C.’s LGBT community. (Bell also hosts Metro Weekly’s popular video series, Outspoken.) And while Youth Pride caters to the kids, Bell sort of works at the other end of that, with B.O.I. producing the annual Queer Prom, offering a second chance to LGBT adults to enjoy prom on their own terms.

”A lot of us, when we were younger, weren’t able to be ourselves,” she says. ”I completely admire these kids who are coming out in middle school, in high school, really being open with themselves, not being afraid of who they are. With a lot of the guests at the prom, it was a different time, a different culture.

”Looking at Youth Pride, I think what it shows is how we’ve just grown leaps and bounds. I mean the LGBT community, but American culture as well has really, really grown. What’s cool about Youth Pride is to go and see how far we’ve come.”

Brian Watson, a former Youth Pride Alliance board member who manages Transgender Health Empowerment’s Wanda Alston House, one of only a handful of transitional homes in the country dedicated to LGBT youth, is reminded daily that there is still a long way to go. At least Youth Pride Day is a bright spot for the 30-year-old’s eight residents, whatever trials they may be facing.

”The kids always have a wonderful time,” he says, adding that one resident, Zion Lopez, has even participated as Youth Pride Day emcee. ”Every year there’s something new, something different.

”Kids don’t really have anywhere to go. Adults, we can always go have a drink at the Fireplace, or go to Town or Cobalt. The kids don’t get this on a daily basis. This one day out of the year is really when they get to come out and celebrate their identities with one another. Young people really need that.”

Jayden Lovee and Aaron Lewis are two such young people. And while the Youth Pride Day is certainly a celebration, the 20-year-old Lovee is looking for more than that at his first Youth Pride Day, which will have him volunteering with SMYAL.

”It’s more important than a celebration,” he says. ”It’s also camaraderie. It shows that other people support us. It shows youth that they’re supported and loved.”

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